You Might Be a Project Manager If…

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.
Several years ago, I had a bit of fun with the title of this posting; I suggested the usefulness of this Jeff Foxworthy take-off for project managers and business analysts to a good friend, Tom Hathaway, of BA Experts. He followed through with it at his website. Click his link and see Tom’s results; I think he did a great job!

This year, the “You might be …” set-up came to mind as I was putting the finishing touches on an update to IPMA-USA’s PM-SAT; a self-assessment of knowledge, based on the new, 4th Edition of the IPMA (International Project Management Association) Individual Competence Baseline. What makes this 4th Edition especially interesting is the inclusion of 2-5 Key Competence Indicators for each competence element.

But, before we get into that, and for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, let’s explore the Foxworthy theme. It started with a rather cruel statement, then a series of ‘interesting’ indicators. For example, “You might be a Redneck if…”  followed by something like, “The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.” Cute, and fun; and not too outrageous. It occurred to me that people who are friends (or family) of project managers probably have the same sayings about us–but are too polite to divulge them to our faces.

Re-purposed For Project Managers: You might be a project manager if … 
a. You always show up for meetings, dates, or parties, on time. No matter what.
b. When driving, you always watch traffic 3-4 cars ahead.
c. You know how to develop the winning business case to get needed talent.
d. You are really good at creating a shopping list but expect your significant other to do the shopping.

That last one I borrowed from Tom; and in fact, many of the items he came up with for Business Analysts would work for project managers too. Of course, these are not as cruel as Jeff Foxworthy’s lists. So, on the fun and a little cruel side, what would you add? Contact Stacy, and let me know!

Back To The Point
The point of bringing this up is that, even 35 years after the first project management certifications, a few parts of our discipline have still not fully agreed about what a competent and performing project manager is, how to develop one, and how to measure one. Like the proverbial butt of Foxworthy’s routine, we are joked about behind our backs in far too many organizations. How else can you explain the disdain shown by managers. with unrealistic, tight and inflexible deadlines, and not enough of the right talent.

A number of recent updates may be changing this situation. IPMA  has long understood that project success (and business success with projects) depends on technical methods, plus the essential foundations of leadership and interpersonal skills, and strategic alignment and organization savvy. Now, others have joined the party. Even knowledge-based exams are finally adding some of the formerly missing elements.

Exams Are Not Enough
Wise Executives and Human Resources Managers have long known that project success with this broadened foundation requires more than short-term memorization and exams. That success requires consistent application, progressing from knowledge through the competence stairsteps to success, applying skills, attitudes, competence, and performance. And of course, the best possible case is professional assessment by practitioners who have worked on projects (or programs) that are similar to yours.

While exams have never been enough, the right knowledge is still the foundation for the progression to performance. So we make PM-SAT, our Project Management Self Assessment Tool, available to you. You can learn more about PM-SAT at the IPMA-USA website, and from there, select the Competence area for which you would like to assess  your knowledge. In PM-SAT, we base scoring on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning:
0 None; no or little exposure to the Element or Key Competence Indicator.
1 Remember: Retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
2 Understand: Construct meaning from messages, including oral, written and graphic communication.
3 Apply; Carry out or use a topic or activity in a given situation.
4 Analyze: Break material into parts and determine how the parts relate to each other, and an overall purpose.

Why do we only use Bloom’s first four levels, instead of all six? Because even advanced knowledge recall accomplishes very little in actual work performance. Beyond initial grasp, application of the knowledge through the competence-to-performance stairsteps is the key to success. When you complete each of the three PM-SAT sections (it is important to be honest with yourself), you receive a score and a recommendation. Record your percentage, because that is the best way to compare your results across the three sections, Perspective, People, and Practice.

Uses of PM-SAT
PM-SAT is designed for self assessment, and the target score you should seek is 100%. Note that it is possible to achieve more than 100%, because our target is based on an average score of 2 (Understand, on Bloom’s scale) across each competence elements’ indicators. And I will tell you, scoring 100% is not easy!

There are other uses of PM-SAT, beyond self-assessment; they include:

  • Human Resources or your PMO can use PM-SAT to identify the best use of training funds, across a department or an entire organization;
  • Project Managers can use it with your project  team, to help identify their weakest links—and take appropriate risk responses. These could include rectifying weaknesses, including those in Sponsors, Resource Managers, and others on your team.
  • Training providers can evaluate their curriculum, and determine where they have gaps, or marketing strengths.

We have used a PM Competence Model for over 32 years, and understand that it is more challenging to assess competence and performance than to merely test knowledge. This ICB4-based version is much more useful than our own original frameworks.

Note that not all roles need to demonstrate the same competences. You must provide (and prioritize) targets for each role—including Project Sponsors, Resource Managers, and PMO Consultants—in addition to Project and Program Managers, and Team Members. This edition of PM-SAT offers you many insights about the best places to improve your PM knowledge foundation—with less overall effort. By the way, the chart above, at the start of this article reflects my own scores of 80, 95 and 90, across the three Competence Areas of Perspective, People and Practice. It appears that I need to do some brushing up on some of these new Key Competence Indicators! What are your scores?

Your Comments?